Nobel Newspaper Articles

Prof. Robert B. Laughlin
Department of Physics
Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305

These are two of several newspaper articles related to Prof. Laughlin's 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Palo Alto Daily News
Wednesday, October 14, 1998

Stanford Physicist Wins Nobel

He Gets News Via Mickey Mouse Phone

Stanford's Robert B. Laughlin got the news he had won the Nobel Prize for physics in a particularly unscientific way - his13-year-old roused him after taking the 2 a.m. call on his Mickey Mouse telephone.

"Hey, dad, there's some guy from Sweden who wants to talk to you," Laughlin said a few hours after he had been awakened early yesterday, recalling the wee-hours conversation with his son, Todd.

The "guy" was calling to let Laughlin know that he, Horst L. Stormer of Germany and Daniel C. Tsui, a native of China who is now an American citizen, would share the $978,000 prize for their discoveries of how electrons interact to make the universe work as it does.

At a news conference at Stanford, a beaming, tweed-jacketed Laughlin, his gray hair disheveled, accepted the applause and cheers of friends, family and co-workers, including two previous Stanford Nobel laureates.

Laughlin, 47, tried to explain the significance of what he had accomplished, but his arcane lesson was met by a number of blank faces. He was asked if the discovery would have an impact on our everyday life.

"It probably won't, unless people are concerned about why our universe is the way it is," he said. "Then it could shed a little light on that."

The prize committee said the trio's work was "yet another breakthrough in our understanding of quantum physics and to the development of new theoretical concepts of significance in many branches of modern physics.

Stanford's on a Roll

It's a fourth year in a row that a Stanford professor has won the Nobel Prize in physics. Last year, Steven Chu shared the prize for his work on the use of lasers to trap and cool atoms. The Stanford faculty currently boasts 12 Nobel laureates.

Laughlin said that in such illustrious company, there is some pressure to win.

"It's kind of like you're the only kid on your block not to have one," he said. "Indeed, there is peer pressure, but let's be real. After all this is the Nobel Prize."

When asked what he planned to do with the money, he recalled talking to his brother-in-law about the subject last spring.

'New Revolution in Physics'

"We were talking about prizes and and he says, 'How much is the Nobel Prize worth?' And I told him. He said, 'Hmmm, that'll buy some nice furniture,' and of course the really sickening thing is, he's right. For most people in most walks of life, it's a giant amount of money, but this is Silicon Valley, for heaven's sake."

Martin Greiter, who holds a Ph.D. in physics and works with Laughlin, heard about the prize from a friend and immediately went to a flower shop, waiting until it opened to buy Laughlin a dozen yellow roses.

"You knew it could happen, but you don't dare to dream about it," he said.

Greiter said Laughlin was a kind and generous man who was extremely precise when it came to his work.

"It's really a new revolution in physics," he added. "The work is a crucial step in opening up a whole new perspective in science - the whole notion of what a particle is."

"The lesson of this discovery is that the world is full of new things," Laughlin said. "It's another pebble on the little edifice of experimental precedents that will tell us about what the laws of quantum mechanics can do."

5 Scientists Working in U.S. Win Nobels

by Joseph Verrengia

Five scientists in the United States won Nobel Prizes in physics and chemistry yesterday for unlocking the strange behavior of subatomic particles in ways that might someday be harnessed to make faster electronics and design new drugs by computer.

Both prizes, awarded in Stockholm by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, reward the scientists for research done as much as three decades ago.

Prizes for Physics, Chemistry

Robert B. Laughlin of Stanford University, Horst L. Stormer of Columbia University and Daniel C. Tsui of Princeton University won the physics prize for discovering how electrons can change behavior and act more like fluid than particles.

Walter Kohn of the University of California at Santa Barbara and John Pople of Northwestern University were awarded the chemistry prize for developing ways to analyzing molecules in chemical reactions.

The prize in each category is worth $978,000. The winners will share the money.

"I feel shaky. My wife is trying to steady me," Kohn, 75, said after receiving an early morning telephone call with the news.

Kohn, an Austrian-born American, was cited for developing during the 1960's a simplified way of describing mathematically the bonds between atoms in a molecule.

Many Applications

This has enables scientists to study large molecules that previously were too complex and unwieldy to understand.

Pople, a 72-year-old British citizen who joined the Northwestern faculty in 1986, developed computer techniques for analyzing chemical structures. The resulting computer program is used by thousands of universities and companies worldwide.

It has a wide range of applications, from studying far-off galaxies according to the radiation they emit, to testing how pollutants such as Freon react with the ozone layer.

Medical researchers use Pople's method to simulate the biochemical effects of proposed drugs, such as medicines to fight the AIDS virus.

The Nobel winners in physics discovered that ordinary electrons, when exposed to strong magnetic fields and ultra-low temperatures, can condense into a new form of matter that behaves like a fluid. Whether this "quantum fluid" of subatomic particles has practical potential is a matter of debate. But Mats Jonson, a physics professor at Sweden's Chalmers Institute of Technology, said the research work could boost the development of small, faster electronics.

Fourth in a Row for Stanford

This is the fourth year in a row that a Stanford professor has won the Nobel Prize in physics. The university faculty currently boasts 12 Nobel laureates. Here's a list.

KENNETH A. ARROW in economics in 1972 for work advancing general equilibrium theory and a new concept of social choice in welfare theory.

PAUL BERG in chemistry in 1980 for studies of the biochemistry of nucleic acids and recombinant DNA that set the stage for subsequent development of genetic engineering techniques.

STEVEN CHU in physics in 1997 for methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light.

ARTHUR KORNBERG in physiology/medicine in 1959 for biological synthesis of RNA/DNA.

DOUGLAS OSHEROFF in physics in 1996 for the discovery of superfluidity in helium-3.

MARTIN PERL in physics in 1995 for the discovery of the tau lepton.

BURTON RICHTER in physics in 1995 for the discovery of the J/psi particle, a new kind of heavy elementary particle.

ARTHUR SCHAWLOW in physics in 1981 for theoretical work in laser spectroscopy which led to the widespread use of lasers for everything from surgery to compact discs.

MYRON SCHOLES in economics in 1997 for a pioneering method to determine the value of derivatives.

WILLIAM SHARPE in economics in 1990 for theoretical advances in financial economics.

HENRY TAUBE in chemistry in 1983 for work on electron transfer reactions.

RICHARD TAYLOR in physics in 1990 for work on deep inelastic scattering of electrons.

In addition to the Stanford faculty,two current Hoover Institution scholars have also been awarded the Nobel Prize.

GARY BECHER in economics in 1992 for his work on extending microeconomic analysis to human behavior.

MILTON FRIEDMAN in economics in 1976 for work in consumption analysis.

Three deceased Nobel laureates were Stanford professors:

FELIX BLOCH in physics in 1952 for work on nuclear magnetic resonance.

PAUL FLORY in chemistry in 1974 for work on giant molecules.

ROBERT HOFSTADTER in physics in 1961 for work on electron scattering in atomic nuclei.

Two other well-known scientists were Nobel laureates and Stanford Professors.

WILLIAM SHOCKLEY received the Nobel Prize in physics in 1956 for research on semiconductors. His award was given before he joined the Stanford faculty.

LINUS PAULING received two Nobel prizes: in chemistry in 1954 for his work on natural chemical bonds and in peace in 1962 for his efforts to ban nuclear testing. Both awards were given before he joined the Stanford faculty.